The first inkling Richard Forester had that something wasn’t quite right about his girlfriend Robyn Gardner’s vacation was when he phoned her and the crackling and beeping on the line made it sound like an international call.
She was supposed to be in Orlando with her parents. Gardner, 35, told Forester, 40, she couldn’t talk, but the next morning she emailed him to say her parents had surprised her with a family trip to Aruba, Forester tells PEOPLE.
That was Monday, Aug. 1. The following day, at 2:05 a.m., she posted a message on his Facebook wall saying simply, “This sucks.” He wrote back, “inbox me.” Then, 10 hours later, he wrote “Where r u baby??”
“I emailed her the rest of the day trying to get in touch with her,” says Forester, a Washington, D.C., headhunter. “She sent me an inbox message on Facebook around 3 p.m. Tuesday, saying, ‘Don’t worry. I care about you I love you we’ll talk and sort things out when I got back,’ ” he says.
That was the last communication Forester had from her.
Three hours later, Gary Giordano, the man with whom Gardner had traveled to Aruba, told authorities she went missing while they were snorkeling.
Forester didn’t find out she had disappeared until she failed to return home as planned Thursday night. He says he had never met Giordano but knew of him. Forester says that Gardner told him Giordano was her “gay friend.”
Forester says someone was using Gardner’s Gmail account after she was reported missing.
“The way you know they’re on their Gmail chat account is there’s a green light,” he says. “If you’re off it a little long and not doing anything on it, it turns idle and turns orange. If you sign off it turns gray. Throughout Wednesday and Thursday her indicator lights were green, orange and gray. This was after she was reported missing. So someone was on her Gmail account.”
Forester says, “I was trying to message her saying, ‘Hello. I know you’re online. Tell me what you’re pissed about.’ I would get no response. I emailed her throughout the day, saying, ‘Is this how you’re trying to break up with me?’ ”
It was not until Forester spoke to Gardner’s brother, Andrew Colson, Friday morning that he discovered Gardner had been reported missing on Tuesday at 6 p.m. He now wonders if Giordano, 50, was the one using Gardner’s Gmail.
“A woman who used to date him contacted me and told me Giordano is very technologically savvy,” Forester says. “This woman said he’d get into a person’s email account, pick up their personality and would then take on that persona.”
Forester says he doesn’t believe Giordano’s explanation that Gardner disappeared while snorkeling, especially that late in the day.
“She wouldn’t have gone snorkeling and gotten her hair and makeup messed up,” he says. “She would have been drinking by then. She would have been laying out by the beach.”
Aruban authorities arrested Giordano on Friday as he tried to board a plane back to the United States. His attorney says there is “no proof” and “no motive” linking Giordano to Gardner’s disappearance.